What Happens at an Arraignment?

What Happens at an Arraignment?

If you have recently been charged with a crime, you should understand the criminal justice process to mentally prepare for the road ahead ahead. The arraignment is one of the first and most critical steps in this process. Here is a comprehensive guide to what you can expect.

Understanding an Arraignment

An arraignment is the gateway through which defendants enter the judicial system following an arrest. It serves multiple fundamental purposes.

  • Informing the defendant: The judge formally notifies you of the charges against you.
  • Setting bail: The court decides whether to release you on bail, on your own recognizance or hold you until trial.
  • Entering a plea: You can plead guilty, not guilty or no contest.

If you are in custody, this hearing typically occurs within 48 hours of your arrest. For those not in jail, particularly in misdemeanor cases, the arraignment may be scheduled within 10 days.

Procedural Aspects of an Arraignment

During the arraignment, the judge will formally inform you of the legal charges against you. You have the right to retain an attorney to represent you; otherwise, the court can appoint a public defender.

Based on factors like the nature of the charges and your ties to the community, the judge will determine if you can be released and under what conditions.

For misdemeanor charges, you will typically enter your plea during this initial hearing. For felonies, a preliminary hearing will usually follow before you enter a plea.

Your Rights During an Arraignment

The arraignment also reinforces your foundational legal rights.

  • Right to counsel: You have the right to have an attorney represent you throughout the process.
  • Right against self-incrimination: You do not have to testify or offer any evidence that could implicate you.
  • Right to a speedy trial: This right ensures you do not remain in custody for an unreasonable time before your trial begins.

Preparing for Your Arraignment

What happens next depends largely on how you plead and the severity of your charges.

  • Misdemeanors: If you plead not guilty, your case moves to trial, first entering a phase called discovery, where the prosecution and defense exchange evidence and file motions.
  • Felonies: After the arraignment, a preliminary hearing determines if there is enough evidence to proceed. If there is, you will go through a second arraignment before moving to trial.

Preparing for an arraignment is essential. First, gather all relevant documents and information related to your case. It is wise to hire a lawyer as soon as you know you will face charges. An experienced attorney like Sal Ciulla can guide you through the process, advocating on your behalf, explaining the proceedings and helping you understand what to expect.

After your arraignment, ensure you obtain a copy of the charging document, known as the complaint. This document is crucial for your records and future reference.

Why Legal Representation Matters

Having an attorney during your arraignment can significantly impact the outcome. A skilled lawyer can argue for reduced bail, find legal grounds to challenge the charges and provide you with valuable strategic advice. Sal Ciulla’s expertise in criminal defense makes him someone you want by your side during your arraignment and throughout your case.

Facing an arraignment can be daunting, but securing knowledgeable legal support allows you to approach this initial court appearance with confidence and clarity. We treat every client as the most important we take on. Contact us today to schedule your consultation.


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